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China clamps down on newspaper extortion

Richard Bell

Authorities in China have come down like a ton of bricks on a financial newspaper headquartered in the coastal province of Guangdong, following reports alleging that some staff at the publication were involved in extortion.

According to the South China Morning Post, officials ordered the  21st Century Business Herald to assess the operations of its business and editorial departments, after allegations emerged claiming that the newspaper had tried to extort money from a number of listed companies by threating to publish negative stories about them, if they failed to sign up to advertising contracts.

The publication licence of a magazine called Moneyweek, which the 21st Century Media Group owns, has also been revoked in light of the allegations.

The order came on Tuesday, 28th April, with the Chinese Xinhua news agency publicising it on Thursday.

Since September last year, several members of staff from the newspaper have been investigated for allegedly being involved in the extortion racket, according to the report from the South China Morning Post.

A number of executives and editors behind the content on the site have been detained by the police, in addition to two executives from a Shenzhen and a Shanghai PR company.

Some companies that were about to enter the stock market by making an initial public offering, or IPO, are also believed to have been targeted in the illegal scheme.

The South China Morning Post might find it hard to regain its public image in the wake of the allegations, but the story does serve to reinforce the importance of ethical practices in publishing.

The same is true for businesses with blogs on their websites, as it’s much more beneficial to publish industry-related news, concentrating on stories that will interest customers and boost confidence in the brand, than it is to publish negative or untruthful stories about competitors.

Richard has a First in English Literature and Creative Writing, and has experience writing fiction and short stories (which he has published both online and in magazines).

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